With some harsh words of warning, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has sanctioned another law firm for electronic filing of documents disclosing birth dates, names of minors, financial account numbers and at least one social security number in violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a).
In a decision issued on November 24, 2010 in the case of Allstate Insurance Company v. Linea Latina de Accidentes, Judge Joan N. Erickson noted that,
"Every federal district has now embraced electronic filing. The days of attorneys being able to ignore the computer and shift blame to support staff in the event of an error are gone. The consequences are simply too serious. To the extent there are attorneys practicing in federal court who are under the impression that someone in the Clerk’s office will comb their filings for errors and call them with a heads-up, the court delivers this message: its is the responsibility of counsel to ensure that personal identifiers are properly redacted."
In this case, upon being notified of the problem, plaintiff’s counsel initially moved to have the complaint and its attachments filed under seal. The court responded by stating that there was no reason to seal the complaint if had been properly redacted, and then noted that plaintiff’s motion showed no sense of urgency to remedy the fact the information was on the Internet, perhaps permanently. Counsel then attempted to redact the information using Adobe Acrobat’s rectangle tool, which the court found insufficient as the black rectangles could be removed with a few keystrokes. The court ultimately ordered the plaintiff’s counsel to remedy the problem, notify each individual affected, provide credit monitoring,and to pay $300 to a charity.
We previously warned you about similar sanctions in the case of Engeseth v. County of Isanti. Caveat jurisconsultor (lawyer beware)!